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Engage stakeholders on gas projects: Richardson

09 May 2017 21:58 (+01:00 GMT)
Engage stakeholders on gas projects: Richardson

Houston, 9 May (Argus) — The natural gas industry should engage stakeholders on building infrastructure such as pipelines early in the process to avoid litigation, former New Mexico governor and US energy secretary Bill Richardson said today.

Richardson, speaking at the Argus North American Natural Gas Markets conference in Houston, said bringing groups in early will allow the industry to avoid staunch opposition like the protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

Richardson suggested reaching out not only to indigenous and environmental groups, but also to federal regulatory groups, state representatives and state bureaucracies in order to foster a sense of inclusion and mutual benefit.

He suggested the industry not just rely on public relations efforts but work to create "engagement that is meaningful and gives the stakeholders a piece of the action."

"You do not want to go into litigation," he said. "You do not want the courts to make the final decision. You want an agreement with a state regulatory or a federal regulatory agency. A lot of that is done by talking to people."

Richardson said he worked with more than 20 indigenous tribes as governor of New Mexico, and said respecting the tribes' sovereignty is of the upmost importance when negotiating on energy matters. As US energy secretary under president Bill Clinton, Richardson said he appointed a tribal liaison in order to form better partnerships between the US and indigenous tribes on energy.

"A lot of it is recognizing the tribes," he said. "They are like separate nations, but they are a part of our country and we did great disservice to them in the past."

Natural gas pipelines in the US have faced opposition from state regulatory agencies, environmental groups and indigenous groups over the past year. Indian tribes in west Texas have protested the Trans-Pecos natural gas pipeline there. In the northeast, Constitution Pipeline and Northern Access pipeline project were both denied a water permit by the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation. And the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has received thousands of public comments on the PennEast pipeline in Pennsylvania.